Public Narrative: Story of Self, Us & Now

January 27, 2016

OK Art Writing & Curatorial Fellowship | , ,

By: Kyle Cohlmia
Editor’s note: Kyle Cohlmia is a 2015 Fellow in OVAC’s Oklahoma Art Writing and Curatorial Fellowship program. This writing was completed as a part of the program. The following supports an upcoming exhibition that was curated by fellows in the program, details of which are outlined below.

Everyone has a narrative. As humans, our narrative is ever-changing: we add and delete memories, modify the internal structures that make up our identities, and adjust to new environments and outside influences. The timeline of our story often starts by looking inward to the self, then to our community for collaboration, and finally to the future for progress. This timeline, defined in educational terms as “public narrative,” collectively starts and ends through each of our lives but is also a cyclical process in which we live.

The 2015 Oklahoma Art Writing and Curatorial Fellowship (OAWCF) presents Public Narrative: Story of Self, Us, & Now at MAINSITE Contemporary Art from February 12th – March 12th,  a three-part exhibit that focuses on the idea of public narrative and its movement from our internal psyche (Topical Breach; Story of Self), to the collective group (The Parts and The Sum; Story of Us), to the present and future of our communities (Whose Fault; Story of Now).

Throughout this exhibit, curators Jessica Borusky, Laura Reese, Lauren Scarpello, and Liz Roth, highlight contemporary topics, including the emotional process of experiencing a breach in life, stories of present-day discrimination, and current environmental issues, such as fracking, that will affect the future of our state. While the artists and subjects vary, collectively, this exhibit highlights the individual parts and recurrent nature of public narrative.


Kara Hearn, “For the Pain of Separation” (from MIDLIFE MAGIC or THE PRESENCE OF THAT WHICH IS NOT PRESENT), Short video rituals, 2014

In Topical Breach (Story of Self), Borusky and Reese address the internal and sometimes uncomfortable feelings we experience as humans—the breach during which our topical binaries are split. In works such Kara Hearn’s short video rituals series, Hearn deals with emotional processes such as the pain of separation, presenting “the range of strategies, stories, and rituals humans fabricate in order to connect with feelings of meaningfulness, mastery, and self-worth.”

Scarpello highlights issues related to identity amidst the current backdrop of racism and xenophobia enmeshed in our present day. The Parts and The Sum (Story of Us), exhibits artist who provide a voice for disparate individuals/communities, exemplified by artist Ronna Pernell who states that her black-and-white, pointillist paintings, such as “The Call,” are “not a history lesson,” but “a moment in time to see/hear the voice of women that are suppressed across all civilizations of the earth.”


Ronna Pernell, “The Call” (from Unspoken Women series), Pointillism with OPEC ink, 2015

Roth, both artist and curator for Whose Fault (Story of Now) is particularly interested in the cause and effect of fracking in Oklahoma, exhibiting works such as Laura Moriarty’s process-driven sculptural paintings to represent the earth’s internal layers and their ephemeral nature. Moriarty takes “poetic license with geology,” in works such as “Normal Faults,” which represent Oklahoma’s land-locked environment and the current, physical condition of our state.


Laura Moriarty, “Normal Faults,” Pigmented beeswax, 2015

Also in Public Narrative, the OAWCF fellows have exhibited a glimpse into their 2015 fellowship, which focused on the crisis we see in art criticism today and which gave the participants the tools to write critically about and curate contemporary art.  These writings – both dripping of red ink and as shiny, polished works – along with the selected artists for this exhibit allow us to connect again to the idea that life is an ever-changing, adjusting, and shifting story of self, us, and now.

Other artists include:

Topical Breach (Story of Self): Tahlia Ball, Creighton Baxter, Hope Esser, Molly O’Connor

The Parts and The Sum (Story of Us): Beatriz Mayorca, Mandy Messina, Kim Rice

Whose Fault (Story of Now): Liz Roth, Sara Schneckloth

Programming dates:

Friday, February 12th at MAINSITE Contemporary Art

Opening reception and performance by Molly O’Connor

Saturday, February 27th at MAINSITE Contemporary

  • CRIT 2 CRIT: Art Writing Workshop, 12:30 – 3:30; hosted by Melaney Mitchell
  • Topical Breach video screening, 7:00 PM; hosted by Jessica Borusky

Friday, March 11th at MAINSITE Contemporary Art

Closing reception and performances by Creighton Baxter, Hope Esser and Kara Hearn